Meet our past and current teaching artists and writers.
PAM HOUSTON / CREATIVE WRITING
Pam Houston is the author of the memoir, Deep Creek: Finding Hope In The High Country, as well as two novels, Contents May Have Shifted and Sight Hound, two collections of short stories, Cowboys Are My Weakness and Waltzing the Cat, and a collection of essays, A Little More About Me, all published by W.W. Norton. Her stories have been selected for volumes of The O. Henry Awards, The Pushcart Prize, Best American Travel Writing, and Best American Short Stories of the Century among other anthologies. She is the winner of the Western States Book Award, the WILLA Award for contemporary fiction, the Evil Companions Literary Award and several teaching awards. She teaches in the Low Rez MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, is Professor of English at UC Davis, and co-founder and creative director of the literary nonprofit Writing By Writers. She lives at 9,000 feet above sea level near the headwaters of the Rio Grande.
BRENDAN LEONARD / ADVENTURE WRITING
Brendan Leonard graduated from the University of Montana’s graduate school of journalism in 2004, and has spent a decade and a half learning how to tell stories his own way in diverse channels: he’s written nine books, produced and directed several award-winning adventure films, and written for dozens of magazines. More than 3 million people have read his blogs on Semi-Rad.com since 2011, and more than 50,000 people see his cartoons every week on Instagram. He’s a columnist for Outside Magazine, and his writing has appeared in Runner’s World, Climbing, Alpinist, CNN.com, Men’s Journal, Backpacker, Adventure Journal, and dozens of other publications.
Brendan shares lessons from his post-college “education,” starting at small weekly newspapers (before Facebook!), and the uncertain process of making a living as a full-time adventure writer, including how he grew his blog from zero readers to more than half a million readers per year, and how creatives can use traditional publishing, self-publishing, and social media to make a living in a dynamic media environment.
CHRIS DOMBROWSKI / POETRY + NONFICTION
Chris Dombrowski’s nonfiction debut, Body of Water: A Sage, A Seeker, and the World’s Most Alluring Fish (Milkweed Editions, 2016), was hailed in The New York Times Book Review; lauded as “finely wrought and profoundly life-affirming” in a starred Publishers Weekly column; drew comparisons to Gary Snyder and John McPhee in the Wall Street Journal; and was called “a spiritual memoir in the tradition of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” in Orion magazine. A Bloomberg News Book of the Year in 2016, Body of Water was also named to the American Booksellers Association Top Ten Indie Next List.
A recipient of numerous grants and awards, Chris also the author two books of poems, By Cold Water, Earth Again, and the forthcoming Ragged Anthem, all published by Wayne State University Press. His essays and poems have appeared in over 100 publications and anthologies including Poetry, Orion, Outside, The Southern Review, The Sun, Michigan Quarterly Review, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Guernica, and Gulf Coast. For the better part of two decades Chris has taught creative writing to a vast array of age groups, most recently as the William Kittredge Visiting Writer in Residence at the University of Montana. In addition, he has worked as a fly-fishing guide in Missoula, Montana, where he directs the Beargrass Writing Retreat, and makes his home with his loveably feral family. He is currently at work on a second book of nonfiction, tentatively titled The Nature of Wonder, forthcoming from Milkweed Editions.
WILLIAM DEBUYS / CREATIVE NONFICTION
William deBuys is a writer and conservationist based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is the author of The Walk and River of Traps, coauthored with photographer Alex Harris, which was a finalist for the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction and a 1990 New York Times Notable Book of the Year. DeBuys’s other books are Salt Dreams: Land and Water in Low-Down California, which received a Western States Book Award, Seeing Things Whole: The Essential John Wesley Powell, A Great Aridness, and The Last Unicorn. His shorter work has appeared in many publications, including Story, Orion, and the New York Times Book Review.
William’s instructional philosophy, in his words:
Writing is both art and craft. I doubt that much about the art of writing can be taught—the muses confer their inspiration or hold it back in different ways for different people. But craft is a different matter. The writer’s toolbox invites our attention, and with practice we can learn to use its contents better. Narrative tension, the magic of voice, the importance of strong verbs, word placement, and telling detail—these “elements of style” and many others can expand our expressive possibilities, just as different kinds of chisels and saws broaden what a carpenter can do. Sometimes just identifying a tool and giving it a name can help a student start to use it. I also like to emphasize that reading well is vitally important: the prose of great writers helps us train our inner ear to recognize the sound of a good sentence, to know the qualities we want to impart to our own work. And then we come back to the question of art, and the strategies we employ to make ourselves more available to the muses’ intervention. Beyond that, there is only practice, practice, and more practice. With a modicum of encouragement, the committed writer will write any way and anyway.
HAL HERRING / ENVIRONMENTAL JOURNALISM
In Hal Herring‘s own words:
I grew up in rural north Alabama in a family of voracious readers, fishing, hunting, digging ginseng, running trotlines. It was a life mostly spent outside, but my heroes were always writers, from Guy De Maupassant to Peter Matthiessen, Dostoyevsky to Jim Harrison.
For most of my life now I’ve been a writer, too, publishing my first fiction and essays in my mid-twenties, and moving to nonfiction and journalism in my early thirties to make a living. Writing has been a stern and rewarding taskmaster.
I’m a contributing editor at Field and Stream Magazine, and write the F&S Conservationist blog on their website. I was also, for several very productive years, an editor at large for the online news magazine New West. I’ve covered some of my favorite long-form stories for High Country News, the never-back-down Western-issues newspaper that gave me my start in 1997. That start and that story- an extraordinarily controversial report on so-called “canned hunting” carried me to the Atlantic Monthly, the Economist, and onward. I spent some good years writing about conservation for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, and others.